This is an article I wrote for Red Hat’s Enable Sysadmin for Sysadmin Appreciation Day 2019. Enhoy!Nate
Sysadmin appreciation day is coming, on July 26th you’ll have a chance to thank one of the least thanked people in your life, your local Sysadmin. In today’s connected world, it’s likely that you rely on a sysadmin in one way or another for almost everything you’re doing online. From checking in with your friends on social media, to tracking that shipment you’re expecting later today. That supercomputer in your pocket? The services it relies on to give you that connected lifestyle you enjoy, somewhere there’s a sysadmin making sure each service it relies on is running and keeping your data safe. I’m composing this post using a collaborative editing suite that we all take for granted, but knowing what I know, I can tell you there’s someone, or a team of someones, keeping these lights on. We take technology for granted, and sometimes forget that someone, somewhere, is paid (or sometimes, volunteering) to make sure these systems work. I’ve got a tee-shirt that I found online somewhere… “System Administrator, I solve problems you don’t know you have, in ways you can’t understand”. That really sums it up.
Being a sysadmin carries a ton of responsibility. We’re expected to be experts in technology, from printers to desktops, to smart phones, to smart toasters. I’ve worked jobs where I was responsible for anything with a CPU, and in some cases, anything even slightly more complicated than a coffee maker. I was once responsible for changing out the filter in the building AC unit at a small web host I worked at. Talk about tangentially related… This doesn’t even take into consideration the complex systems we’re ACTUALLY here to support. Clusters, virtualization, Email, messaging, calendaring, web sites, all of these things are services that consumers use daily, and they just need to work, and largely they do, but that’s due to the tireless work of sysadmins.
Now, most of the Sysadmins in the world, you can’t identify, because they’re working for some huge tech firm keeping the Googles and Facebooks of the world running. I’m not suggesting you go hunt all of those folks down, but if everyone makes an effort to find the folks that keep their office running, it’d go a long way to help the sysadmins of the world feel better. While you’re at it, find your local network engineer and thank them too, they deserve it!
So how can you thank them? Well this can be as simple as taking them out for a coffee, a beer, or just dropping them an email saying “Thank you”. If you’re managing sysadmins, it’d go a long way toward team building if you made it a point to thank your sysadmins, directly, not just on their yearly review. I’ve worked for managers that didn’t get that, and others who did. I can tell you which ones I was happier working for…
If you’re looking for something more than just a trip to the coffee shop, if you really want to appreciate your sysadmin, I can recommend one thing. Go read “The Phoenix Project”, by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford. This book is largely considered to be the devops bible, but I found that it really resonated with me as a description of what it means to be an IT worker today. Pay attention to the character “Brent”. That’s your sysadmin. Trying to understand the stresses of a sysadmin, is probably the best gift you can give them on Sysadmin Appreciation Day!